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Dramatised reconstruction of caning on hand

Video clip: Australia

With comments by C. Farrell

TV feature comparing the handling of juvenile misbehaviour in the past and the present.

Schoolboy with grandfatherThis 8-minute clip from an Australian TV programme "Today Tonight" (Channel 7, February 2008) appears to be based on a widely circulated American e-mail called "1973 vs. 2006", reproduced in this March 2007 US news item.

Here some of the scenarios in the e-mail have been Australianised and dramatised, with commentary by two present-day schoolboys and their respective grandfathers.

One of the scenarios features the quickness and simplicity of a boy getting the cane at school in the sepia-coloured past and compares this with the absence of corporal punishment today and the complex, bureaucratic fuss -- and/or the prescription of zombie-producing drugs -- that typically now has to follow any misbehaviour.

The CP scene shows the student being caned on the hand, which would be correct for a state school in some parts of Australia in the past, particularly New South Wales.

In another scene, a boy is lightly whipped with a belt by his father, regarded as perfectly reasonable punishment in the past but nowadays (it is suggested in the film) provoking police intervention.

The sequence as a whole is not only or even mainly about corporal punishment, but seeks to show how "political correctness", and an excessively suspicious and litigious society, has made mountains out of molehills and caused some aspects of life to become so complicated as to be impossible to manage sensibly. It could also be taken to be criticising what some see as the way in which male adolescents are no longer expected to behave in a male adolescent manner -- "a conspiracy against boyish boys in our heavily feminised, mimsy tick-box culture" in which "the very nature of boyhood attracts disapproval", as it was described by London Times columnist Libby Purves.

The way the scenarios are shown is all a bit simplistic and tabloid, but the issues raised are real enough, and the boys and their grandfathers make some moderately intelligent comments.


IMPORTANT: Copyright in this video material rests with the original copyright holders. This brief excerpt is reproduced under the "fair use" doctrine EXTERNAL LINK: opens in new window for private, non-profit, historical research and education purposes only. It must not be redistributed or republished in any commercial context.

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